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Marygrove College uses the arts to engage the neighborhood


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Arts funding has decreased. Social responsibility has waned. Who is fighting the good fight? If Marygrove College has their way, the entire community will. The One Neighborhood Engaged (ONE) program is actively using the arts -- among other tactics -- to build a better neighborhood.

ONE is a grass-roots effort supported by Marygrove College to “enhance, empower, revitalize and refresh” the neighborhood surrounding the college in northwest Detroit. ONE focuses broadly on cleanliness and safety, promotion and communication efforts, economic restructuring and empowerment. Each focus area has tactical projects and one of the most exciting is the plan to implement Neighborhood Mural Branding.

“Branding the neighborhood through artistic murals will expand on ONE’s goals by engaging the youth of the community in an artistic endeavor to visually improve the community. The proposal calls for two prominent Detroit artists, 2008 Kresge Eminent Artist Charles McGee, whose studio is in the ONE district, and Vito Valdez, to work with youth in a series of mural workshops,” says Jo Ann Cusmano, vice president for Strategic Initiatives at Marygrove College.

The college has recently submitted grant proposals to support this effort. If enough funding is secured, the mural branding initiative will target schools within or in close proximity to the ONE neighborhood. The artists will work with youth to teach the history and techniques of mural painting and design. They will also work on the design and painting of two dozen murals. This includes a "signature mural" designed by Charles McGee to be painted on graffiti tagged buildings along commercial corridors next summer (in collaboration with Summer in the City and local youth).

Within six months of establishing the ONE committee structure, strategic collaborations have been developed with Wayne County Alternative Workforce, Summer in the City and Detroit Rescue Mission. “With these collaborations,” says Cusmano. “Two dozen vacant commercial properties now have weekly lawn maintenance; a half a dozen vacant buildings have had graffiti painted over with geometric designed murals; and volunteers have swept the commercial corridors removing illegal signage and posters.”

How can you help Marygrove fight the good fight? Marygrove College is sponsoring a Michigan Defining Moments session on Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m. This is an opportunity for residents to participate and share their views regarding statewide issues. They are also hosting a fundraiser at the Detroit Repertory Theatre on Dec. 5. Tickets for the play “Hospital Romp” are available for $20. Proceeds benefit the ongoing efforts of ONE. Visit the website at or call the hotline at (313) 927-1767 for more information.